Like it or not, live streaming has become a major industry over the past few years. Every day, millions of people log on to platforms like Twitch to watch streamers play games, make art, write code, and all kinds of other things. It has become so popular, in fact, that a number of tech companies are now creating products specifically for this audience.
One of those items is the Elgato Stream Deck, a smart little unit with a bank of programmable buttons designed to allow streamers to easily initiate actions during their broadcasts without altering the game they’re playing. It’s all great, you might think, but why should I care if I’m not a professional livestreamer?
The answer is that while the Stream Deck is designed for gamers, a little creativity can extend its usefulness far beyond the world of Twitch and YouTube. It is basically a tool for activating shortcuts, and its flexible nature makes it surprisingly capable for business tasks. Actions like muting or turning off your camera during a video call can be accessed with the push of a button, for example, and complex keyboard shortcuts are replaced with one push.
Elgato Stream Deck Review: Design
Sounds like the game, too. Fortunately, the Stream Deck doesn’t wear its gaming affiliations up its sleeve; there is no RGB lighting or too flashy design to distract the eye. Instead, it’s just a clean rectangular slab of black plastic inlaid with 15 clear buttons in a 5×3 grid.
The buttons themselves have a satisfying tactility, offering crisp actuation and firm feedback. An LCD screen sits behind the buttons, allowing each to be personalized with their own icon and label based on their function. The box also contains a simple but versatile plastic stand that allows the Stream Deck to be mounted from different angles, as well as sitting flat on a desk.
The whole is classy and solidly built. Our only gripe with the design is that the wire used to connect the Deck to your PC is placed a bit awkwardly at the top of the device, making it difficult to neatly tidy up for anyone who is picky about cable management.
Elgato Stream Deck Review: Display
Programmable keyboard shortcuts have been around for years; many keyboards and mice have a dedicated bank of macro buttons that can be linked to specific actions or keystrokes. What makes the Stream Deck unique, however, is its LCD display and the ability to set custom icons for each key.
You can create your own icons through Elgato’s web editor or upload your own images. You can even use moving GIFs or set a wallpaper image that spans the entire width of the screen, and the vivid colors and high brightness of the screen itself means all your buttons will be immediately identifiable and visually appealing. You can also adjust the brightness and set a screen saver that goes on after a certain period of inactivity.
As impressive as it sounds, it’s not just about personalization. The fact that icons can dynamically change unlocks a whole host of smart features, such as the ability to have nesting folders filled with task-specific shortcuts or individual profiles with key combinations that change accordingly. of the program you are using.
Elgato Stream Deck Review: Software
This is where the Elgato software utility comes in. Actions are assigned to the different buttons through a simple click-and-drag interface, where they can be customized in terms of appearance and functionality. Several actions can be linked to a single key, allowing you for example to launch all your professional applications at the same time.
There are a number of predefined functions for specific applications built into the software, but most of them are aimed at streamers, with tools like Twitch, OBS Studio, YouTube, etc. Fortunately, however, you don’t need to rely on it, as the software also includes the ability to program buttons to launch shortcut key combinations (such as ctrl-C or ctrl-V) and text strings. , as well as specific applications.
Having a bank of your most used shortcuts at your fingertips can be handy, but where the Stream Deck really makes sense is with the profiles. You can create separate profiles with specific actions and shortcuts, and each profile can be linked to an app, switching whenever the app is active. You might be working on a document, with shortcuts for spell checker, save, and various formatting options. Switch to your email client to send it, and the Stream Deck seamlessly switches to actions to attach files, forward a message, or create an appointment. Jump on a Zoom call and the actions change again.
The downside is that you will have to manually program all of these actions and shortcuts on your own, which can be tedious and time consuming. Get a little creative, however, and the possibilities are endless. For example, why not program your favorite reaction emojis as text strings?
If you’re ready to do some light coding, you can get even more advanced as well. Since the Stream Deck can be programmed to launch applications, you can use Windows batch files to create more advanced shortcuts that actually execute code on your machine. This is a great way to access some features of your system that the Stream Deck does not have access to by default.
Elgato has released an open source SDK for the Stream Deck allowing more advanced users to create and download their own plugins for the device. As with the default plugins, a lot of them are aimed at streamers, but one in particular stands out. This is a utility for connecting the feed platform to the popular open source monitoring tool HWinfo, allowing you to view readings from various sensors as live numbers and rolling charts. This includes metrics like CPU temperature, network upload and download, packet loss, and more. This opens up the possibility of using the Stream Deck as a really useful monitoring accessory for IT administrators, giving insight into key metrics at a glance without having to dedicate an entire window to dashboards.
Reviews on Elgato Stream Deck: Verdict
Elgato’s Stream Deck is intriguing material. It might sound like a gimmick to gamers, but take a closer look and you’ll find a versatile little productivity aid that’s more user-friendly than it first appears. Spend some time customizing it to suit your working style, and you might find that it speeds up your workflow in a number of ways.
That being said, that’s probably overkill for most office workers; where it is really powerful is with complicated specialist work. We’ve found this to speed up our use of Adobe’s Creative Cloud apps phenomenally, for example, and those who work with similar software, such as data analytics tools or development environments, will likely find a lot in it. to like.
More integrated integrations with professional software packages would elevate the Stream Deck to an essential bona fide enterprise, but as it stands, the level of tweaking and manipulation with the shortcuts needed to set it up means it’s a bit too complicated to set up. earn an unqualified recommendation. It’s a fabulous little tool for power users who want to get every drop of efficiency out of their setup, but for average users, the high price tag and lack of specific commercial plugins make it more of a luxury than a necessity.
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